My Jamaican Charm

A year ago, I was so eager to visit the famous Port Royal; only to be disappointed by the desolate city. There was no remnants of its former reputation as the wickedest and richest city. All that is visible is a small rundown community with a sinlge coastal police station near the sea. But, I guess that was because I did not discover Gloria’s. This weekend, I went back to the famous Port Royal and dined in a neat restaurant with an upper and a lower deck. Jamaican Charm On the upper deck, I had a lovely night view of the sea in the outskirts. There was no moon, so the only lights that glistened on the water were coming from far away communities, from the contours of the mountains. Though I could not see much, the feeling of euphoria gripped me and in my mind, Port Royal had transformed to my version of its early beginnings: with pirates, and parties and classical music playing in the background.

The server brought out fish soup for our appetizer, then the second course was a large brown stewed fish layed out on a platter with two slices of bammies on the side. Gazing on the horizon in between bites, and feeling the joys of living on an island; brought beauty to this desolate city. In my eyes, I really was in the “wickedest and richest city” in the world. By the end of that course, there was no space in my stomach left for anything. I settled in my chair and breathed in the Jamaican- Port Royal air, finding new appreciation for this quaint community. Jamaica has resurrected history on my behalf, charming me with its tales and cuisines, and leaving me mesmerized by its very presence.

Jamaican charm In the last few months, Jamaica and I have grown closer. Neither am I a stranger on these lands, nor a simple acquaintance; no, I am the girl in Jamaica’s life. Each day, I am offered gifts of sunshine and sweet kisses, charming compliments, stories that will last a lifetime and baskets of happiness. But, the best is when Jamaica feeds me with its sugary ice cream, sweet exotic fruits and its flavourful homemade cuisines.

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This tantalizing island, is a charmer like no one else. Like Charlotte, Jamaica is slowly weaving me in his web; by appeasing all of my desires. And I admit, I have been struck by cupid’s arrow. The more I get to know Jamaica, is the more I am tempted to make this island, my home for life. I wonder if all islands have the same potent magic? Living in Jamaica, is like living in a dream. And the truth is, I don’t want to wake up. I want to spend the rest of my life in this dream where my everyday oozes with happiness. For me, this is enough.

 

Jamaica Bitter and Sweet

Now that I’ve been here for close to two months, Jamaica is slowly revealing its flaws to me. It wasn’t long that I accepted that some days I’ll have to bathe with cold water; but I did not anticipate having to bathe from a basin. This was not in the travel books. I not only had to bathe from the container of water, I also cooked and washed dishes from the kettle. Who knew that one could use so little water to do so much?

Jamaica, I felt was a little insensitive to me this week. I had to accept the realization that Jamaica does things differently; not like what I was used to. I have been chasing the digicel representative (the phone company here) who is never at their workstation when I visit. It’s either close in the middle of the day or they are out to lunch. I walk away puffing everytime. Finally, early this week I caught them and for the most part received great customer service; they did not have sim cards in stock, but promised some would arrive by the end of the day. Since other pressing matters came up, I postponed my return until the following day; which left me playing cat and mouse again. The next day, I reiterated my concerns to a another rep. She can only do pay-as-you-go, and not a monthly plan at this location. I rested my elbows on the counter and rubbed my fingers on my forehead. I pulled out my new NCB debit card, deciding that I would take the pay-as-you-go plan.

“We don’t take cards” she said.

At that point, invisible steam was blowing out of my ears.

“I’m leaving now” I said. And I stormed out. I walked towards a bench overlooking green grass and open space underneath a tree; and sat down. It was a minor problem, but overwhelming because Jamaica could not grant me my very small request- usage of my own phone. The Jamaican sun dried up my tears and I accepted that not all my requests will be granted and although I had been patient for the past month, more of it is required.

In spite the minor unkindness I felt this week, Jamaica surprised me over the weekend. I had a chance to walk along the beach in moonlight; and sat at my favorite ice cream garden, Devon House. I was hoping for more of these romantic events, but I guess I can’t always get everything I want. Still, I love you Jamaica.

Finding Balance

Finding Balance For a second, I was loosing myself in all this studying. In the past three weeks I loss focus of what I’m here for, “to rekindle my relationship with Jamaica”. That was the slogan that pulled me here on this island in the first place; yet I go from classroom to apartment each day. At the end of last week, I had enough. I turned down my books, shut the laptop lid, and found ways to spend time with Jamaica.

Walking around in Halfway tree was a delight. I stepped into one of the most famous and long standing restaurants, Tastees. I remember it as a place that sells Jamaican Patties, but as I was observing the menu, I see they have varieties- from chicken and fries, to ackee and saltfish, to calalloo loaves. After ordering my chicken and fries combo, I walked towards the sitting area and scanned the room. There were not many choices of empty tables, so Andrea and I took the only dirty one available. A rasta man was sitting at the table close to us and with the limited space it was hard to make ourselves comfortable.

It was not the way I would like to eat lunch in the city, so I decided it would be best to head back to campus. The two of us, Northamerican girls made our way back by taxi. We had gotten directions earlier, but were still having difficulties finding the Halfway tree square. We asked the hilgars and bus drivers for more direction. Once we found it, we listened intently for our location to be called out by a taxi driver, “Papine, Mona campus”. We hurried inside the taxi and felt safe. The experience took my mind off math and instead, I was focussing on getting to know Jamaica.

The following day, I set my books aside again. This time I went grocery shopping and stopped at the mall to purchase festival and red peas soup. The combination may be odd, but those were just what I was craving. I sat quietly in the food court and a feeling of appreciation and contentment came over me. Jamaica, I see, is revealing itself slowly to me with no signs of wanting to hurry the process. I gazed up at the other levels and reminsced on my experience only a year ago when I was touring the mall for the first time. I no longer felt stressed.

On the third day, I decided I would wake up early to study the day away. But, again, Jamaica requested my company. Early saturday morning, I was drunk with sleep that I did not hear the knocking on the door til seconds later. I jumped out of sleep to open the window next to the door. The voice said, “Good morning” and I opened the door ajar, feeling inappropriately dressed for visitors. “Are you coming to the river with us?” It was David. He had given me a weeks notice and I had declined because I knew I would need the time to study for the math exam.

Still, I closed the door and debated in my tired mind what to do. Study or go swim in the river? I dragged myself around the room, complete my morning routines and hygiene. I saw myself reached for the razor and the shaving gel. Then I saw myself picking a bathing suit and then throwing a sundress on.

“Are you coming?” David called out from the opposite side of the door.

“Yea! Give me a second” I shouted.

I grabbed my purse, filled it with a bottle of water, sunblock lotion, and my math study notes. Yes, I decided I would do both- swim in the river and study while I’m there. The moment I arrived, I torn my dress off and proceeded to walk to the deeper part of the river while holding David’s hand for support. The water was frigid, but in no time I was used to the temperature. While the other girls were sitting on rocks enjoying their morning, I was swimming like a fish. Sometimes, I was floating on the water and observing the scenery, rich with green trees and blue skies. The stress and anxieties I was feeling, floated away. I had forgotten about Math and school and I was enjoying my company with Jamaica.

It’s such a gift to be on this island and I simply can’t get enough of it. Over the pass month, I’ve felt deprived of seeing Jamaica but this past weekend has changed that completely. It’s funny how the simple experiences can make life such a blessing. Jamaica gives me that each day, and I can’t help but fall head over heels for this island.

The Beach Or The Classroom

The Beach Or The ClassroomI woke up with the desire to immerse myself in the saline caribbean sea, which I had enjoyed a week ago. I soaked up all the salt in my skin; and now I can’t wait to go back for more. The sea is ubiquitous, yet, it seems so far from me. My days are consumed with school, leaving little time for personal relaxation and enjoyment of the island. I can be content by the fact that I am surrounded by mountains and I feel the omnipresent island breeze, which makes me appreciate the experience of life in Jamaica. There is a spirit of calmness on this campus, probably because it’s May and most students are either studying or perhaps on summer vacation. Regardless, the stillness makes me think I’m in paradise. A walk to any part of this large learning institution and my mind is transfixed, and sometimes in a daze, as it is somewhere between reality and imagination. I often have to blink a few times, just to be certain that I’m not hallucinating this whole thing. In truth, a few months ago, I was browsing all kinds of travel books about Jamaica, and all I could do was imagine this experience. So every now and again, I have to remind myself that this is the real thing.

The Beach or the classroom Today, I had to choose between going to the beach and spending time on my Math problems. Already, I foresaw myself sitting on a towel spread out on the beach, with my study notes held down by a rock. While I use my sunglasses to block the sun out of my eyes, my head is engrossed in my math problems, and looking up every so often at the beautiful waves that kiss the horizon. I cover my notes from the sand, and the sprinkle of water that the wind keeps carrying from the sea. I take in a breath ever so often, and even though it’s hard to concentrate, I try very hard to both study and enjoy the view. It’s why I came here to do an MBA after all. I feel the sun’s heat piercing my skin, and I let it. I don’t often get to feel such radiant and potent sun rays, and I want my skin to soak up every bit of it before it’s soon time to go. I am so engulfed in the experience that I loose track of time, and the rhythmic ebb and flow of the ocean, and the far away birds chirping, lulls me in a nap.

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I finally awoke to what appears to be my study group arguing about a math problem, all standing at the board, as if observing a piece of art at the museum. I realized, this was not going to be the weekend for a beach trip. Math was taking precedence this weekend. In fact, I needed more help than anticipated and my study group ran for hours. Seven hours locked away in an air conditioned room, was not the way I had intended to spend the lovely Saturday afternoon. All my plans of going to the beach had to be cancelled, and the only thing I did when I came out for air, approximately 10:30pm, was to go home and sleep. My hope of spending time at the beach was washed away, and I’m simply hoping this is not a foreshadow of things to come.

…..but I’m still loving Jamaica…